Chapter 283 - Alighting
All was the same. The same seat, same incense, the old servant standing in the same corner and Madam Xiao’s movements were as graceful and cheery as before.
The painting-like scene was inexpressibly quiet. The atmosphere was subtle, as if a fog was floating in the air, carrying a certain tension.
Madam Xiao spoke suddenly, "What do you think, Mister Chu?"
"What do you mean?" Ai Hui responded. He was somewhat stunned by her stupid question.
"That earlier battle. Could it be that you have no thoughts on it?"
"Thoughts? My thoughts aren’t important and I do not wish to get involved." Ai Hui conveniently added, "I have other matters to attend to and was just planning to bid goodbye."
He would be a fool if he hadn’t already understood the other party’s apprehension. Although he wasn’t clear as to what was going on exactly, he could tell from the battle crew’s allocation that this was going to be a maelstrom.
This wasn’t something he could deal with. Plus, he had more urgent matters to handle so how could he waste any more time here?
It was best to get away from this maelstrom as soon as possible.
Madam Xiao stared intently at Ai Hui. He sounded genuine with his words, his expression truthful.
Could it be that Chu Zhaoyang’s blending into the caravan was really without ulterior motives?
"Mister Chu’s swordplay is excellent. Perhaps you’re from Karakorum?"
"No." Ai Hui shook his head.
Madam Xiao seemed disappointed. The initial stages of Karakorum’s establishment was at precisely the same time its popularity surged, so those walking outside would never conceal their identity. She had wanted to borrow the assistance of Karakorum but her hopes were dashed now.
"If Mister Chu is worried, just feel free to stay for a few days before heading for Magic Cloud City. I’ll send you back to your room."
There was no doubt in her voice, and unknowingly, He Lao appeared by his side.
Ai Hui shivered inside. This old man was of a different level and was not someone he should ever provoke.
He knew it was pointless to say anything now and he was feeling lazy anyway, so he went straight back into his room.
Things were not over.
This battle was just the prologue. Waves of elementalists charged forward like ants. While Great Wei’s preparation was sufficient, injuries quickly appeared and the number of casualties kept increasing.
The most severe loss occurred on the fourth day, when eight guards died and six got injured. This elementalist was superbly powerful and in the end, the old man had to take on the task of inflicting a heavy blow to the opponent.
Benefiting from three years of extensive travel, Ai Hui knew quite a lot about the more reputable strong players.
He recognized this person.
Shi Youguang became famous more than twenty years ago and was truly a capable earth elementalist.
The old man’s abilities shocked Ai Hui greatly. He had long felt that he was incomprehensibly strong but did not expect him to be
powerful. Shi Youguang’s sand puppet was completely destroyed by the old man and even Shi Youguang was badly injured.
Ai Hui was secretly glad that he did not try anything funny with that old man.
But it seemed that the old man was injured as well. Shi Youguang’s sand puppet launched a counterattack before dying and its strike was very sharp and powerful.
Witnessing a battle between experts enlightened Ai Hui greatly. It was a great learning experience. The might of elemental externalization was thoroughly displayed by the two of them.
Especially that direct control of heaven and earth elemental energy, which fueled them with abundant elemental energy and increased their endurance exponentially. Plus, they had a profound understanding of elemental energy and sometimes, weaker moves became outstandingly solid and powerful in their hands. It really opened up Ai Hui’s horizons.
Suddenly, he heard a knock on the door.
He opened the door and He Lao said while carrying a pouch in his hand, "We’re changing direction so you’ll have to be on your own for the later part. This is a gift prepared by Madam. She’s tired and won’t be sending you off."
The old man shoved the pouch into Ai Hui’s hands.
Ai Hui instantly knew what was going on. What gift? He was simply a bit of bait, asked to dig his own grave. No wonder he wasn’t allowed to leave these past few days. It was to save him for this moment.
A bitter struggle had just broken out in the day, and in the middle of the night a member leaves slyly with such an obvious pouch, evidently trying to escape.
It wasn’t clear how many pairs of eyes were secretly watching. Would he be able to escape?
He had to run if he wanted to live. The faster he ran, the better he would be able to lure the elementalists away.
Truly a cruel woman!
Ai Hui did not expect to get himself into this situation just by boarding this vessel. But he knew that if he did not agree, he was going to perish in this room today.
Looking at the old man’s gloomy appearance, it seemed clear that his murderous instincts had been triggered.
"Pay up," Ai Hui spoke suddenly.
The old man was stunned. He had expected Chu Zhaoyang to either be in rage or be silent or even rebel. Asking for money was beyond his imagination.
"I paid two thousand elemental energy points as part of the transport fare and now you’re just going to tell me that I have to get off? Violation of the deal means compensation. I’m not being unreasonable, am I?"
"How much elemental energy am I going to consume if I fly? Plus, the route is unsafe, what if I bump into a thief? How am I going to replenish myself with such a high consumption rate? What if I fall into the hands of the thieves? It would be a blow to the reputation of your enterprise."
The old man stood by the door like a statue, stupefied.
He turned around and left after a few seconds.
Ai Hui abruptly retrieved a seemingly unimpressive stone from the pouch and channelled a wisp of elemental energy inside. The stone instantly lit up but the slight glimmer vanished quickly.
Ai Hui stuffed the stone under his bed before returning to the door, standing motionlessly.
Not long after, the old man returned and threw a bag of elemental energy beans towards Ai Hui.
Ai Hui opened the pouch. It was filled with sparkling elemental energy beans. The silver colored light was mesmerizing and the rich metal elemental energy odor hit him in the face. Each bean was very plump, sparkling and translucent. It was of a decent quality, far beyond ordinary elemental energy beans. Ai Hui immediately understood that these were rare essence elemental beans.
It contained even purer elemental energy and each bean costed more than five thousand elemental energy points, ten times more than an ordinary elemental energy bean.
As if no one was around, Ai Hui started counting the number of beans. There was a hundred.
"What a big move," he said suddenly without any ruthlessness since it was meaningless and not of any help in the current situation.
He put the beans away properly, carried the pouch and walked to the cabin door.
It was already open and the wild wind was whistling. It was pitch-dark outside but he did not stop or hesitate. He leaped forward.
Ai Hui detected a few odors approaching him as soon as he made the leap. Without hesitation, he threw the pouch away.
A few approaching black shadows turned around immediately and dove for the pouch.
Ai Hui did not utilize his azure wings yet but instead, allowed himself to drop. When he was about ten meters away from reaching the ground, the azure wings on his back spread open suddenly.
The bright wings instantly became as dazzling as a torch. The powerful force resisted his downward momentum and slowed his body down before applying power.
His whole body was like a sword of light, stuck to the ground and advancing violently.
He had counted the number of beans not to estimate their worth but so as to give himself time to think of the possible scenarios that could happen and how he could deal with them upon exiting the vessel.
He was very clear about how dangerous the situation that he was about to face was.
As such, the first thing he did was to dispose of the bag. While this did not remove suspicion, it could attract the hidden enemies’ attention, again giving him more time to react.
Great Wei's caravan flew in the sky so their pursuers would, too, stay in the air. Relying on his legs would not get him to Fiery Floating Cloud.
That being said, the number of enemies on the ground should be minimal.
Ai Hui’s series of responses had been observed by Madam Xiao and He Lao.
"Chu Zhaoyang really has skills. He is able to adapt and is as sly as a fox." Madam Xiao exclaimed in admiration and couldn’t help but sigh, "Not sure if what I’ve calculated is right or wrong." If Chu Zhaoyang lived, enemies would flock to the enterprise.
"Why blame yourself, Madam?" He Lao responded before adding indifferently, "This guy is not bad indeed, but he’s far from being able to become an enemy of the enterprise. An elementalist that has yet to attain elemental externalization is not a cause for worry, Madam. But, his azure wings aren’t bad at all. They’re speedy. Hopefully he’d be able to help us attract more people."
The stone Ai Hui left under his bed became brighter suddenly.
He Lao felt its intense elemental energy wave move and his face changed. "Not good…"
Ai Hui smiled upon seeing the sudden blossoming of splendid flames amid the darkness.
That seemingly ordinary stone was an explosive created by Lou Lan from the blood crystal. It was relatively harmless to elementalists who had yet to attain elemental externalization, but was extremely suitable for destroying constructions or causing a stir.
Items Lou Lan produced were always reliable.
It wasn’t that easy to deceive him!
The caravan was in chaos. Countless guards ran out in succession as a small half of the vessel had been blown off. Under He Lao’s protection, Madam Xiao remained uninjured. But she looked on at the mess before her, at the remains of her tearoom and at the night sky, her face turning ashen.
This ball of flame was simply too eye-catching. Plus, it was Auspicious that had been blown up. Most of the hiding elementalists were attracted by the sight before them.
By now, Ai Hui was already miles away.
The instant the flame blossomed, the dazzling azure wings on his back turned pitch-black suddenly.
Ai Hui’s silhouette merged into the darkness.
Looking down from the sky, one could see the silver sword light advancing close to the ground and disappearing suddenly.
He Lao was similarly ashen-faced.
He did not expect to be blindsided by Chu Zhaoyang. The latter’s words were like a slap to his face. It stung.
He turned around and glared at that violent silver light.
"This damned bastard!"
These words escaped through the gaps between his clenched teeth.
As he finished, that pencil-straight light vanished into thin air.
The old man’s face was filled with malevolence as it froze up suddenly.
Without any signs at all, that silver light disappeared into the dark.
All of a sudden, he recalled his mistress’s words. Sly as a fox. He felt that it was greatly true at this point. He smelt a whiff of an indiscernible odor and was startled. He shouted in a stern voice, "Protect Madam!"
Losing Auspicious instantly changed their situation for the worse.
Ineffably, a tinge of remorse surfaced in his chest. But there was no time for regrets. A fierce battle ensued.